(QCOSTARICA) Costa Rica has become a much more expensive destination for foreign tourists starting August 1, when the country reopens its air borders.
The cost of travel to Costa Rica has become more expensive due to the requirement that international tourists, starting this Saturday, must provide a negative COVID-19 PCR test result and purchase travel insurance provided by the State insurer, to cover medical expenses and lodging in case of developing or contracting the COVID-19 during their stay.
The cost of the Instituto National Seguros (INS) policy is depending on age and their length of stay. Charges for this policy can range from US$275 for minors, to more than US$965 for people over 70, for a two-week stay.
That is the quote obtained from the INS portal, the only one authorized until now to sell it in the country.
That is in addition to the COVID test that must be done in their country to present it upon entering the Juan Santamaría or Liberia airports, which can range from US$100 to US$150 or more.
The Minister of Tourism, Gustavo Segura, stated that consultations are being made about different alternatives to reduce the cost of travel insurance costs.
For now, one possibility is that more insurers authorized to operate in the country present offers to the General Superintendency of Insurance (Sugese) and compete with INS.
“The reality of the pandemic the world is facing forces us to include new requirements to make the opening as safe as possible,” added the minister.
The politics behind the insurance policy is that the protocol text to allow the reopening of the airports says verbatim: “All foreign passengers must have travel insurance approved by the General Superintendency of Insurance of Costa Rica (Sugese), through a local insurer, to cover the medical expenses incurred by the traveler for the illness of COVID-19, as well as accommodation.
“This insurance must have a coverage of at least $20,000 (twenty thousand US dollars) for medical expenses and at least $4,000 (four thousand US dollars) for accommodation,” the document says.
And so far, only the INS has this authorization by the Superintendencia General de Seguros (Sugese)
This policy can only be purchased from an insurer authorized by the General Superintendence of Insurance (Sugese), which limits its sale to the scope of other insurance companies registered in Costa Rica.
The tourism sector says that the additional cost of these requirements will become a brake on the arrival of foreign tourists, at a time when the sector revival is urgent, after four and a half months of “zero season”. The borders have been closed since March 18.
Tourism entrepreneurs and airline representatives pointed out as a problem that the Government forces tourists to purchase the approved insurance in Costa Rica, despite any travel insurance they have purchased abroad.
Gerardo Vargas, Marketing Manager at the INS, explained “Behind the cost of the policy there is a lot of actuarial calculation to substantiate that the premium is sufficient to cover the risks”.
A link to the INS website will be included in the electronic form for tourist entry requirements to the country.
Tomás Soley, head of Sugese, confirmed that the INS is, until now, the only insurer that has proposed a special policy for foreign tourists.
The Asociación de Líneas Aéreas Internacionales (ALA) joined other sector groups such as the Costa Rican Association of Travel Agencies (ACAV) and the National Chamber of Tourism (Canatur) the denounce the high costs to tourists.
The ALA also complained in a statement that they weren’t asked to participate in the discussions where these decisions were made.
Sary Valverde, president of the ACAV, suggests the Government should authorize policies acquired abroad with pandemic coverage and include, for example in the health form, the decision that the tourist bears the costs if their policy does not cover it.